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Angelina Grimke Argues for Women's Political Rights

In this letter Angelina Grimke, abolitionist and women's rights advocate, argues for the right of propertied women to participate in government through petitions despite their lack of enfranchisement. This letter was a part of a series of essays that Grimke publicly addressed to Catherine Beecher. Beecher strongly supported female education, but believed that women's proper place was in the home, as wives and mothers, rather than in the public sphere.

Brookline, Mass. 8th mo. 28th, 1837.

Dear Friend:

…I trust my sisters may always be permitted to petition for a redress of grievances. Why not? The right of petition is the only political right that women have: why not let them exercise it whenever they are aggrieved? Our fathers waged a bloody conflict with England, because they were taxed without being represented. This is just what unmarried women of property are now. They were not willing to be governed by laws which they had no voice in making; but this is the way in which women are governed in this Republic. If, then, we are taxed without being represented, and governed by laws we have no voice in framing, then, surely, we ought to be permitted at least to remonstrate against "every political measure that may tend to injure and oppress our sex in various parts of the nation, and under the various public measures that may hereafter be enforced."* Why not? Art thou afraid to trust the women of this country with discretionary power as to petitioning? Is there not sound principle and common sense enough among them, to regulate the exercise of this right? I believe they will always use it wisely. I am not afraid to trust my sisters—not I.

Thou sayest, "In this country, petitions to Congress, in reference to official duties of legislatures, seem, IN ALL CASES, to fall entirely without the sphere of female duty. Men are the proper persons to make appeals to the rulers whom they appoint," &c. Here I entirely dissent from thee. The fact that women are denied the right of voting for members of Congress, is but a poor reason why they should also be deprived of the right of petition. If their numbers are counted to swell the number of Representatives in our State and National Legislatures, the very least that can be done is to give them the right of petition in all cases whatsoever; and without any abridgement. If not, they are mere slaves, known only through their masters….

Thy Friend,

A. E. Grimké

* Grimké is addressing the words of Catherine E. Beecher.

Source | Angelina Grimke, Letters to Catherine E. Beecher in Reply to an Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism (Boston: Isaac Knapp, 1838), 111-113; from Paul Lauter, ed. Heath Anthology of American Literature, vol. B, 5th ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 2089.
Creator | Angelina Grimke
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | Angelina Grimke, “Angelina Grimke Argues for Women's Political Rights,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 9, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/537.

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